Legendary rugby union player Jonah Lomu, who sadly died on 18th November, and his wife, Nadene, addressed a packed meeting at the Poole stake centre on Thursday, 22 October. The Lomus had previously spoken in their native New Zealand about the challenges they have had to face and the strength their faith gives them. Staying in the Bournemouth and Poole area during the Rugby World Cup, they were invited to lead a fireside at the local chapel and gladly accepted. Jonah was the youngest player ever to debut for the All Blacks in 1994 and went on to play professional rugby in both New Zealand and Europe before retiring in 2007 due to health issues arising from a serious kidney condition.
In her talk Sister Lomu spoke of the challenge of packing for a family of five for a trip of three months’ duration. She also spoke movingly of her husband’s health and recalled the occasion just after the opening ceremony of the 2011 World Cup when he returned home and simply said, “I don’t feel so good.” Jonah was rushed to hospital, and in the following days and weeks as she prayed and fasted, Nadene came to realise that everything would ultimately be all right but that it would be in the Lord’s time and not necessarily hers. She concluded her words by speaking about fear, advising young people in the audience not to be afraid to say no to a drink or a cigarette and not to tolerate bullying, either physical or online.
Brother Lomu spoke about his chequered past, his difficult childhood and his spiritual search. Like many sportsmen, he had certain ways of preparing before a match. Part of his pre-game ritual was to drape his shirt over his shoulders and to pray. Despite this, he still was not attending any church but was still on his own personal search to find the right one. As a consequence of his medical condition, he and Nadene had been told that they had virtually no chance of having any children. Despite this, Nadene fell pregnant, and after this personal miracle Jonah started going to church, meeting with missionaries and working towards his baptism. When he finally committed to be baptised, he was told by his bishop, “You will be tested,” and then he almost immediately fell seriously ill once again.
In the ensuing crisis, he realised that there was only one person who could really help him and that was “the man upstairs.” As soon as he was well enough, he “got down to Wellington and got into the water.” Brother Lomu concluded his words with his testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and added that it took him 36 years to find the Church but now he has the assurance that his family can be for all time and eternity. “I don’t just want to be known as a rugby player,” he said, “but also as a great dad!”